Christmas?

My kitchen is beginning to smell a lot like Christmas but it was only a preliminary baking session for an event at my husband’s office. When I’m only doing small batches, I often try some new recipes. This morning, I tried a new one that might be a keeper for the future. They are called Gooey Butter Cookies but are not all that gooey but smelled really good. Very easy and adaptable recipe. The version I tried today:

Gooey Butter Cookies

1/2 cup softened butter
8 ounces of cream cheese
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Zest of one lemon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg and a pinch of cinnamon
1 box of yellow cake mix
1/2 cup powdered sugar (for rolling the cookies in before baking)

Cream together the butter and cream cheese until smooth. Add in the egg, vanilla, zest and spices. Mix in the cake mix and refrigerate the dough until cold. It will still be sticky but somewhat easier to work with!

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. It’s a good idea to use parchment paper on your baking sheets.

If you have a cookie scoop, it would be handy but basically roll balls of dough into 1-1 1/2-inch. Roll in the powdered sugar. Place two inches apart on the prepared baking sheets.

Bake for 12-15 minutes but keep an eye on the cookies after around ten to determine how hot your often might run. Cookies should still be somewhat pale with golden edges. Let rest on the baking sheets a few minutes before putting them on the cooling racks.

After I finished these cookies, I realized it could end up being a real timesaver when I’m suddenly informed that someone in the family needs cookies for work! Also, what’s to stop the cookie creation at a yellow cake mix? I’m thinking chocolate, carrot, lemon . . . Adding some chopped nuts or chocolate chips might be an interesting addition . . . By the way, the gooey ones are the light ones in the middle of the picture with the patches of powdered sugar.

Last-Minute Baking Suggestions

The clock is definitely ticking down to Christmas. It really seems to sneak up on a person the last week when you realize that you do NOT have another week to shop, you do NOT have another week to buy groceries, and you do NOT have some great Christmas cookies stocked away in the cupboards and freezer. There is also the concern for people who have to avoid gluten. It wasn’t stated in my marriage vows, but after thirty-plus years of marriage, I seem to have acquired a husband who is very sensitive to gluten.

Around Christmas time, Christmas cookies  would make life sad for my husband until I discovered ‘flour’ blends that can turn out rather great cookies and still be safe for him to eat.

My latest discovery is Pamela’s All Purpose Flour, Gluten-Free Artisan Blend, Non-Dairy. It doesn’t work well for yeast-raised goodies but some people think it makes better cookies than wheat flour. It is pretty much cup to cup for measurements so you can use some of your old favorites still. I found the best deal on Amazon.com.

BetterBatter is a standby in my cupboard for making quick biscuits, egg noodles, tortillas and such. Their computer site has a lot of recipes to cover just about any need you have for baking during the holiday and throughout the year. Sometimes, the best deal is on Amazon and other times directly from BetterBatter.

King Arthur’s Flour is almost the same as Pamela’s and BetterBatter but, probably best for cookies and cakes. They, too, offer recipes for the asking  and just surfing for a particular recipe on the internet with their name in the search will bring up a lot of recipes from individuals, too. Just make sure to read the ratings for hints to avoid disasters.

Before my husband had to omit gluten from his diet, my specialty was bread and most any yeast-raised recipe. Although I have managed to produce some reasonable outcomes, to date, nothing was exactly what I wanted. I just discovered Steve’s Gluten-Free Bread flour blend by Authentic Foods. The first baguette turned out amazingly well with a crust and a ‘bread interior’ that was springy and didn’t ‘melt’ down exposing it’s gluten-free origins. I purchased 25 pounds and bread baking is back in my schedule. It looks, acts, and tastes like the real deal.

Crispy Coconut Chews

Crispy Coconut Chews

My husband doesn’t like coconut but, for some reason, he likes these cookies! They are easy to make and a nice contrast to all the chocolate and spice cookies that show up at Christmas. Don’t get me wrong, I have absolutely nothing against chocolate and spice cookies but don’t mind chomping down on an extra coconut cookie in addition to the rest! Sometimes, I use bran flakes for the called-for crushed flake cereal in the ingredients. I’m always sneaking in extra vitamins and fiber even with treats.

½ cup butter
½ cup packed brown sugar
½ cup granulated sugar
1 egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup crushed flake cereal
1 cup rolled oats
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup coconut
½ cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cream the butter and sugars until smooth and fluffy. Stir in egg, extract, and lemon zest. Add the flour, baking soda, and baking powder to the butter mixture. Add the oatmeal, cereal, coconut, and walnuts. Mix gently until well combined.

Drop dough by tablespoons onto greased baking sheet, keeping them about 2 inches apart to allow for spreading. Bake for approximately ten minutes or until cookies are lightly browned at the edges. Cool on wire racks. Makes approximately 4 dozen cookies depending on size.

Apple Oatmeal Bars

Apple Oatmeal Bars

When Fall approaches, apples are in abundance. Nothing like a spicy apple and cinnamon concoction to put the scent of holidays into the air just a bit! This is a cookie-type bar cookie with a lot of taste and goes well as a snack or dressed up for dessert.

½ cup shortening
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup rolled oats
2-3 green or tart apples, peeled and diced (about 2 cups total)
Juice and zest of one, small lemon
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
½ cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking pan (approximately 12x9x2-inches) with parchment paper or use vegetable oil spray.

Cream together the shortening and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time.

In another bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices. In a small bowl, mix together the lemon juice, zest, vanilla extract, and the apples. Now stir in the rolled oats, apple mixture and nuts into the flour/butter mixture. Spread the batter in the prepared baking pan.

Bake for approximately 20-25 minutes. Cool in the pan on a cooling rack. Cut into desired-sized bars and either sprinkle with powdered sugar or drizzle with a lemon glaze. Goes well with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or a generous portion of freshly-whipped cream.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cookies and Memories . . .

I took a couple of days before Christmas to make Christmas cookies. I guess I was feeling nostalgic and probably missing my mother who has been gone for over ten years now but suddenly decided to include a batch of a favorite Christmas cookie in the bunch – Pfeffernusse. It is a small, roundish cookie with a lot of spice packed into it covered in a thin icing. To those used to cutout cookies loaded with icing and decorations, these might be pretty plain but enjoying a few of them with hot coffee or tea and you know you just found the best of the bunch. Not a difficult recipe but a very spicy one!

Pfeffernusse Cookies (translation: Pepper Nut Cookies)

2 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup almond flour
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
½ teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground mace
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
½ cup packed dark brown sugar
1/3 cup honey
5 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons thick sour cream
1 large egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Combine all the dry ingredients and set aside. Combine the brown sugar, honey, butter, and sour cream and stir together until melted and smooth. Cool for five minutes and then stir in the flour mixture. Add the egg and vanilla and mix in thoroughly. Bring the dough together into a ball and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate four hours to overnight to let the flavors develop.

To bake:
Preheat oven to 350 degree.

Form the dough into balls about an inch in size. A cookie scoop makes this an easy job if you have one. Keep the dough chilled so work quickly.

Place the the cookies on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake approximately 15-18 minutes or until browned on the bottom. Let cookies cool before removing them to a cooling rack. When the cookies are completely cooled, it is time to make the glaze.

Glaze:
2 cups confectioner’s sugar
3 tablespoons of hot water or enough to make a workable glaze. Dip each cookie, face down, into the glaze, let excess drip off, and place on a cooling rack to dry. If you are quick or have a helper, you can use some colorful sprinkles on them.

The cookies can be stored at room temperature in an airtight container.

All Your Christmas Cookies in One Recipe!

When I was little, my mother had a similar recipe for making many kinds of cookies out of one dough. Over the years, it has evolved so here are some of my favorite ways to make use of one cookie dough for a variety of flavors. We used to have Christmas Cookie Baking days with friends and this was always a great way to get started. Another plus is that you can make up all your favorite options listed and refrigerate them and spread out the baking time over several days. This is also your warning . . . December is tomorrow so can Christmas be coming rather quickly?

All Your Christmas Cookies in One Recipe
5 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons Cream of Tartar
½ teaspoon salt
2 cups butter
3 cups powdered sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 teaspoons butter flavoring/extract
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg

Cream butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl until light and fluffy. Add in eggs, extracts and spices. Mix in the dry ingredients until well-blended.

Now, you are ready to bake . . . But what kind of cookies do you want to make? All this beautiful dough ready for creation . . . Divide your dough into eight portions and start thinking!

Cherry-Orange Drops
Additions:
1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
2 teaspoons fresh orange juice
½ cup diced green and red maraschino cherries
½ cup finely chopped walnuts

Mix in a an eighth of your prepared dough. Refrigerate dough for an hour. Drop by teaspoonfuls on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake for 5-6 minutes or until golden in a preheated 375 degree oven.

Wedding Cookies
Additions:
Those popular Wedding cookies will take another eighth of your dough Simply stir in 1 cup of finely chopped pecans and chill dough for four hours. When dough is ready, shape into small balls on a parchment-line baking sheet. Cookie scoops make this easy. You don’t want golf ball size here. Bake at 375 degrees until set and browned on the bottom, depending on the size of the balls, about 5-8 minutes. Watch them carefully! Remove from oven and let rest for a few minutes. Meanwhile, prepare a cup of powdered sugar in a bowl. If you happen to have vanilla powder on hand, do put a few teaspoons in the sugar. Now roll each of the warm cookie balls in the sugar and set aside to complete cooling. You want to do this when they are still warm.

Chocolate Cinnamon Balls
Additions:
Similar to the Wedding Cookies but with a spicy, chocolate element. Add in ½ cup finely diced walnuts and ½ cup of mini-chocolate chips. Follow the directions for baking the cookies like the Wedding Cookies. Let the cookies rest before rolling them in a mixture of ½ cup granulated sugar, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, and a dash of ground cloves.

Crispy Cut-Out Cookies
No additions here but you will need to chill the dough a couple of hours to facilitate rolling it out. On a floured surface, roll out the dough to about an eighth of an inch thick. The fun part? Using your choice of cookie cutters to create you edible Christmas good wishes. Place your cookies on a parchment-line baking sheet(s) and bake about 6-8 minutes in 375 degree oven. Watch carefully to insure golden cookies. A quick brush of icing is a cup of powdered sugar and enough cream or milk to form a spreadable icing. Those plastic pastry brushes are great from quick icing. Be sure to have some sparkly sugar or colorful decorations to add before the icing sets.

Gingerbread Men
Additions:
1/4 cup molasses
1 ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground ginger
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
Follow the directions for cooling, cutting, and baking the Crispy Cut-Out Cookies. Hope you have a gingerbread man cookie cutter on hand!

Chocolate Sandwich cookies
Again, no additions but a fun, tasty cookie. Take your eighth portion of dough, divide in half, and roll each into a roll about 1 ½- inches in diameter. Refrigerate a couple of hours and then slice the cookie rounds about an eighth thick and place on parchment-lined baking sheets and bake in 375 degree oven for 5-8 minutes. Let cool a bit before removing to a cooling rack. Meanwhile, carefully melt a cup of milk chocolate chips. Take one cookie and spread some chocolate on the bottom and sandwich it (bottoms sides facing) with another cookie. For a fun decoration, when the cookie sandwiches are done, Melt ½ cup white, mint, or peanut butter chips (Your choice!) and drizzle it over the tops of the cookies and sprinkle with some colorful sugar or decoration.

Sugared Cookies
No additions but some colorful sugar would work well here. As usual, make sure the dough has been refrigerated at least an hour. Scoop up heaping teaspoonfuls of the dough, roll in the sugar, and place about two-inches apart on the parchment-lined baking sheets. Press gently down on each cookie – not TOO thin! Bake for approximately 5-6 minutes or until lightly golden in 375-degree oven. Let rest before removing to cooling racks.

Brown Butter Frosted Walnut-Nut Drops
Additions:
1 cup finely chopped walnuts
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
Mix in the walnuts/cinnamon and refrigerate the dough. Drop dough by teaspoonfuls on parchment-lined baking sheets about two-inches apart. Bake for approximately 5-7 minutes or until golden and set. Now, this is what elevates the cookie to dramatically tasty! In a small pot, melt a stick of butter and watching carefully cook it until it starts to brown, stirring constantly. Remove from stove and add 3/4 cup powdered sugar, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract and enough cream or milk to combine. Mix well. It should not be runny but not too thick, either. Add drops of milk or cream if it is too thick. Now, pick up each cooled cooking and dip it halfway into the icing and set back on the cooling rack to set. Before it sets, however, would be a good time to sprinkle some chopped nuts or colorful decorations on them.

Chocolate Peppermint Patty Cookies
Additions:
2 ounces of melted and cooled baking chocolate
Mix the chocolate into your eighth portion of dough thoroughly. Divide in two and form into two rolls about 1 ½-inches in diameter and cool for two hours. Slice off rounds of cookies into approximately one-eighth slices. Place on the parchment-line baking sheets and bake for 5-6 minutes. They should be set but be careful of scorching. Chocolate tends to do that! Let rest on baking sheets before removing to cooling rack. Meanwhile, beat 1½ sticks of softened butter with approximately two cups powdered sugar. Drops of milk or cream helps if it is too thick. You need fluffy and spreadable here. Tint it with a tiny bit of red food coloring to get a pink hue. You can add ½ cup of crushed candy cane to the frosting or simply flavor with a drop of peppermint extract.

Chocolate Sandwich Cookies
Prepare the dough and baking as shown above for the Chocolate Peppermint Patty cookies. This time, beat together ½ stick of softened butter, 1 cup peanut butter, 1 cup powdered sugar, and enough cream or milk if it needs thinning down a bit. Fill the cookies as shown in previous recipe. For an added treat, melt 1 ½ cups of semi-sweet chocolate chips and dip each cookie half way in and then set on waxed paper to set.

Yes, I know there are eleven choices here. You can pick our favorite eight! You can also divide a couple of your ‘eighths’ of dough in half which would work well with the drop cookies to try all eleven ideas.

Quick Gingerbread cake

I think that Gingerbread has to be one of my favorite flavors. It reminds me of the onset of the holiday season and seems to go so well with a cup of hot tea and a little peace and quiet.

Quick Gingerbread Cake

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 cup molasses
1/3 cup softened butter
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 eggs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Mix together the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Warm up the molasses and butter until the butter is melted and mixed in. Add the egg and buttermilk to the dry ingredients, incorporate a bit to break up the egg and then mix in the warm molasses mixture.

Bake in either 2 vegetable-oil sprayed 8-inch cake pans or a 9×13 oblong baking pan.

Bake for approximately 20 minutes or until top springs back when lightly touched. Cool and serve with fresh whipped cream or vanilla ice cream. Butter pecan ice cream can be pretty festive!

Long lasting whipped cream.

In order to make your whipped cream a hour or so ahead, whip up a pint of heavy whipping cream with 1/4 cup sour cream until it holds a peak. Add a bit of vanilla or almond extract for the final beating. Be careful, you don’t want to turn it into butter! Serve immediately or put in the refrigerator for a couple of hours.